Chris Lilley, creator of Summer Heights High, returns this May with another spin off show from the original school mockumentary. Lilley seems to be everywhere at the moment and his first spin off show, Ja’mie: Private School Girl, aired last autumn to great viewing figures in Australia, America and, most recently, the UK.
There seems to be a relative amount of hype surrounding Lilley’s new show, Jonah from Tonga, with the entire series premiering on BBC iPlayer for 48 hours last weekend as a preview to the show being broadcast on Thursday nights on BBC3. This type of online build-up is the first for any major Australian TV show and it looks like Lilley is set to bring Australian comedy to the forefront in both the UK and America.
Jonah from Tonga follows 14 year old Jonah Takalua on his many mischievous escapades. Those familiar with Summer Heights High will recognise Jonah as the troubled teen who struggles to find his way, wreaking havoc wherever he goes. At the end of that series, Jonah was sent to Tonga by his father for his bad behaviour and the spin off opens with him irritating his extended family in his new surroundings.
The initial five minutes of the show were a little dull. Jonah runs around the beach whilst his Uncle, talking to the camera, proclaims Jonah as an idiot (though of course with much stronger language). The Tonga section was a little disappointing but the show picked right back up again when Jonah’s immediate family arrive to take him back to Australia.
Jonah’s character thrives in the school setting where he winds up the teachers, doing what he does best. With Jonah yet again starting at a new school there are some new faces, including Mr Joseph, a violent and hypocritical teacher who constantly swears at the teenagers to get them to stop swearing. There is little in this episode that is really laugh out loud funny except the montage of Mr Joseph teaching Jonah and the other boys practical jobs for apprenticeships.
The first episode ends on a touching and poignant note with the audience able to learn what happened to Jonah’s mother and the possible reasons as to why he has become so messed up. Despite Jonah being a terror to most he does come across as misunderstood with his heart in the right place.
Though the spin offs seem fun, they don’t seem to be able to outshine Summer Heights High but Jonah from Tonga is undoubtedly worth a watch anyway. Plus it must only be a matter of time before Lilley is focusing on his next project, surely a series revolving around drama teacher Mr G?